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Positive local response as Mini electrifies

Start me up: Mini’s all-electric Cooper SE made its first public outing at the recent Frankfurt motor show ahead of its Australian release next year.

Volumes low but optimism high as Mini sells first batch of PHEVs and preps 2020 EV

15 Oct 2019

MINI has received a strong initial response from prospective Australian buyers for its forthcoming first mass-market series-production electric vehicle, the Cooper SE hatch, which is due to arrive mid-2020 as the waiting list for the newly released Countryman plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) extends to six months.

 

Local supplies of the all-new EV are nonetheless expected to initially be very low, just as they are for the PHEV SUV, with Mini Australia confirming to GoAuto that its first batch of just 25 plug-in hybrids were already taken, leaving new buyers with a six-month wait as the Australian subsidiary of the BMW-owned British premium brand orders additional cars from the factory.

 

At the same time, supplies of diesel-powered Countryman variants are thinning and are not expected to be renewed, leaving the entire Mini brand to trade exclusively on petrol and electric propulsion, or a combination of both.

 

The company is not yet prepared to put a dollar figure or estimate on the SE electric hatch, but the zero-emissions model is sure to be positioned highly – likely above the range-topping $50,400 JCW hatch and perhaps nearer to $60K – as the Australian operation tests the waters in a new market segment.

 

The all-wheel-drive Countryman S E All4 PHEV starts at $57,200 plus on-road cost, $3000 upstream of the equivalent diesel version and $8000 higher than the front-drive S petrol.

 

Speaking to GoAuto last week at a drive event for the PHEV in Melbourne, Mini Australia general manager Brett Waudby said: “This is a totally new market for us, so to compare it on pricing as to where it fits against the petrol car, to be honest, would be wrong of us right now.

 

“It’s a totally different segment that we’ve never been in before. We currently obviously have the PHEV, which I’m hearing now we have got an approximately six-month lead time now before we can get any more of these cars for Australia, and so the PHEV has gone very well for us.

 

“It (PHEV) is one for customers who are probably in the mid-range who are not quite sure what they want to do right now, whether they want to go to full-electric or whether they want to go to solely petrol, so that’s gone very well for us.

 

“With the electric, it’s going to be a totally new segment for us. That car will be a completely different segment to what our petrol cars are in, so to try and put it back into the petrol segment in terms of pricing is just not what we’re concentrating on.”

 

As well as a high price point, prospective customers should also expect limited volumes at launch in similar fashion to the PHEV.

 

“Obviously, electric has really taken off in Europe – the amount of enquiry they’ve had in the UK, I think is in the thousands – so let’s be frank, we’re still a little bit of a way off before we have a charging station on every single corner here in Australia,” Mr Waudby said.

 

“We’re not expecting massive volumes of this car.

 

“But it’s going to come. It will happen. The electric car – the volume will start growing. And we need to be in a position where we are ready for when the market really does want to adopt this car – or let’s say the government really starts pushing the electric side – that we’ve got a car for the people who want it.”

 

Asked when he expected the momentum shift to occur, Mr Waudby said: “If I had that answer, I’d be able to build as many cars as I could for it, but unfortunately we really are just waiting for the government to really start focusing on this area.”

 

In terms of Australian supply, the Mini Australia chief pointed to the fact that the brand has received a huge number of hits already on its website page dedicated to its forthcoming EV.

 

“It’s the page that gets the most hits out of any other car right now,” he said.

 

“We have a good range of enquiry, we’re putting it into our lead management system right now, and again, the car is great – it really is super-cool, we have a good range on it for an urban city car (240km), I think nobody’s going to be worried about the range because Mini (hatch) drivers are inner-city drivers, around-town drivers, so it’s a perfect car for (them).”

 

Mr Waudby said he expected electrified powertrains to become available across every model line in the Mini range in Australia, alongside traditional petrol combustion engines.

 

“Absolutely, we will probably have a petrol one and an electric one, and they’ll go hand in hand,” he said.

 

“We will continue on with our PHEV in Countryman, it’s going well for us, it’s not massive volumes but enquiry is still very good for us … and that will continue on for the near future regardless. At some stage, let’s be honest – I can’t say officially because I don’t know honestly – we will probably end up with an electric (full EV) and a petrol side in the future.”

 

And diesel in the next generation? “No.”

 

“We’re not really selling that car (Countryman diesel) now,” Mr Waudby said.

 

“The call for us to sell the diesel is falling away somewhat and, again, we have to be prepared for what’s coming in future, and with our PHEV the people who were driving diesels for fuel efficiency now have the PHEV that fits that mark.”


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